Royal Reels: Gambling


This well traveled cover with the 1d red KGV head was postmarked CROYDON/ FE 25/ 18/ VICTORIA had considerable trouble in finding this Australian soldier in Egypt, as shown by the multiple addresses in black and red ink, as well as blue crayon. The re-addressing has carried over to the reverse and unfortunately the 2 postmarks are illegible, and the manuscript 24/2/18 is puzzling for it pre-dates the posting date by one day (Figures 1 & 2).

The most surprising thing for me however was the ease at which I found so much information on Norman Henry Wright because of knowing his # 2167. The Australian War Memorial has digitised its vast data on some of WW1 soldiers and Norman Wright has more than 38 pages available for him. His unique #2167 differentiates him from four other Norman Wright’s listed , and he was in the 15th Light Horse from 16.7.15 until 5.3.19. Another listing shows that he was 21 years 9 months when he enlisted as a private, was a labourer and single, his address was the Commercial Hotel, Murtoa, Victoria; his religion was C.of E., his sister Lillian Violet Wright living at Goldfields Club Hotel, Perth W.A.; he was born at Horsham, Victoria; and, he was earning a princely sum of 5s.0d per day before embarkation and 6s.0d after embarkation.

His ‘Australia Imperial Forces Attestation Paper of Persons Enlisted for Overseas Abroad’ papers showed a similar ‘smorgasbord’ of units: 3 rd DOUBLE SQUADRON, 15 th Reinforcements, 8 th Light Horse and 3rd Anzac (—) Imperial Camel Brigade (Figure 3).

His listing on the Embarkation Roll stated that his Unit was ‘8 Light Horse Regiment – 15-31 Reinforcements (April1916- November 1917)’, that his date of embarkation was 7 April 1916 on the HMAT Barunga, and the place of embarkation was Melbourne. As someone who has never served in the Australian Armed Forces I must admit that I don’t understand the nomenclature used in the Armed Forces. But I was equally confused by his extensive medical records, for which I have no excuse (as this was my profession for 40+ years!).

Norman Wright had more than a fair share of medical complaints of which impetigo, tonsil enlargement and ulcerative tonsillitis, and an attack of malaria, with fever and an enlarged spleen, treated with quinine were the diagnoses. In the case of malaria he was proclaimed fit to return to duty after 11 days. There was a recurrent diagnosis of VDG which was not a term I used when I ran a clinic for what I thought this disease was, and then I came across a definitive diagnosis of gonorrhea, made on a smear which showed gonococci and pus cells on 5.3. 1917. Between the dates of 13.5.16 and 18.1.19 there were 32 separate visits as an outpatient and admissions to hospital, none of which due to war injuries. During this period his rank varied from a private to lance corporal to temporary corporal and back down the chain of control.

Norman Wright was discharged from the army early in 1919 and returned on the Port Sydney to Australia. In his War History Index he was the recipient of 3 medals, although I have no idea as to what war service activities he performed while in Egypt (Figure 4).

Categories: Armed Forces